Beijing’s largest seafood and produce market has been shuttered and surrounding neighbourhoods placed into lockdown after more than 50 people tested positive for the coronavirus, renewing concern that China’s grip on the pandemic is not yet secure.
The outbreak, which comes more than 50 days after the last local case of Covid-19 was recorded in the city of 20 million, has infected at least 53 people.
According to the Beijing health commission, nearly everyone who tested positive had worked or shopped at the Xinfadi market.
It comes as New York’s virus-related deaths hit a record low – despite other US states reporting surges in cases and outbreaks in Brazil and India hit landmark new levels.
In Chile, Health Minister Jaime Mañalich has resigned amid criticism over the nation’s “erratic” coronavirus strategy.
Back in China, residents at 11 estates in south Beijing’s Fengtai district have been ordered to stay at home, following the emergence of a coronavirus outbreak at the capital’s largest seafood and produce market.
The Xinfadi market has been closed by authorities as they race to contain the cluster, which emerged more than 50 days after the last local case of Covid-19 was recorded in the city of 20 million, fuelling fears of a resurgence in local transmission – and concern China’s grip on the pandemic is not yet secure.
At least 53 people have been linked to the market, which provides much of the capital’s food supply, the Beijing health commission said.
Nearly everyone who tested positive had worked or shopped at the market, which employs upwards of 10,000 people. The virus was reportedly detected on cutting boards for imported salmon there.
Officials in Fengtai, home to more than two million people, announced on Saturday the district had established a “wartime mechanism” to deal with the fresh wave.
Beijing will also tighten traffic controls into and out of the city, barring inter-provincial tour groups and suspending sporting events, according to official announcements and local news reports. Plans for first, second and third grade students to return to schools throughout the city on Monday have also been suspended.
Despite being the site of the first major coronavirus outbreak – with the first reported cases tied to a wet market in the central city of Wuhan – China’s Government has since loudly promoted its apparent success in controlling Covid-19’s spread.
Yet the draconian measures taken by the government might not be sustainable if there was a second wave of the disease, head of the division of epidemiology and biostatistics at Hong Kong University’s School of Public Health, Ben Cowling, told the New York Times.
“It’s very clear that the actions taken in China have almost brought to an end their first wave of infections,” he said.
“The question is what will happen if there’s a second wave, because the kind of measures that China has implemented are not necessarily sustainable in the long term.”